A Significant Centenary

A Significant Centenary

This year sees a significant centenary: one hundred years since the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

The Treaty of Versailles was an attempt to bring a just and lasting settlement to a world in turmoil after 4 years of War.  The origin of the Treaty can be traced back to 14 principles for peace, outlined by President Wilson of the USA in a speech on 8th January 1918.  These principles, known as the 14 Points, were widely circulated, and some hoped that they would encourage Germany and Austria-Hungary to surrender, in the expectation that all parties would receive a just settlement of their various claims. In the event, some 9 months after Wilson outlined his 14 Points, the fighting did indeed come to an end, when an Armistice was signed on 11th November. Technically, an Armistice was just that: it was an Armistice, not a Victory by one side or the other. The world’s diplomats and politicians then got together to work out what was to happen next. Discussions and negotiations lasted into 1919, and culminated in a series of peace treaties, the most famous of which was the Treaty of Versailles.  It was the Treaty of Versailles, rather than the Armistice, which can be said to have brought the First World War to an end.

Needless to say, every peace treaty has its problems, and the Treaty of Versailles was particularly problematic. The treaty resolved some issues, but it also created new challenges to the world order. Its treatment of Germany was harsh, and it has often been argued that German resentment at some of the treaty terms contributed significantly to the rise of Hitler. Some would say that the Treaty of Versailles simply provided twenty years breathing space before an even more destructive Round Two, known as the Second World War. Indeed, some of the political issues facing the West today, especially in the Middle East, can be traced to the solutions imposed by those who sought to make and keep peace following the end of the First World War.

It is easy to criticise peace makers for their failures. But at least they have tried to bring about peace.  Jesus never said that peacemakers will be perfect people who will always get things right. But what he did say was this: “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”.

Fr Jason